The High Five Episode 4 – Five Incredible Black Comic Creators

On this week, I’m celebrating Black History Month by running down five of my all time favorite black comic creators. This was a delightful trip down memory lane, but also a great look at some of the greatest comic writers and artists around. I hope you enjoy it!

If you’re interested in the links I mentioned in the episode, here’s the CBR interview I did about Goldie Vance. If you want to find out more about McDuffie being let go from Justice League of America, you can read the initial Lying In The Gutters column here and then the news itself about him being ousted here. Finally, enjoy a few pics I snapped while putting this episode together including the fantastic Kyle Rayner sketch Darryl Banks did for me!

Books Of Oa: Green Lantern Versus Aliens

green lantern versus aliensKyle Rayner was MY Green Lantern for the longest time. I came to the ongoing series when Hal Jordan went nuts and an LA dude got the most powerful weapon in the cosmos dropped in his palm in a back alley while wearing a Nine Inch Nails T-shirt. I was on board instantly and have loved that character ever since. So, when I was perusing the library’s Green Lantern offerings and saw they had a copy of the DC/Dark Horse Green Lanterns Versus Aliens crossover, it was the easiest of requests to make. Continue reading Books Of Oa: Green Lantern Versus Aliens

Comics Comics Comics Comics: Silver Surfer #54 (1991)

SILVER SURFER #54 (Marvel)
Written by Ron Marz, drawn by Ron Lim
While moving all our stuff from one storage unit to the other this week, I organized a bunch of the unread comics I’ve got and pulled out over a dozen Silver Surfer issues, thinking they might compliment all the Green Lantern comics I’ve been reading lately. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. Since the issues were pretty spread out, I didn’t get much of an idea of the overarching story and also didn’t always care about the specifics of the issues. I’m getting to the point where I recognize the set-up for a specific kind of story and then just flip through to see if I’m right, which I tend to be. Things got better with the Ron Marz written issues, and, surprisingly enough, my favorite of the bunch was actually an Infinity Gauntlet tie-in.

Let’s all be honest, tie-ins have a tendency to suck because they’re very often foisted upon creative teams and feel like blatant cash grabs (like most of the Blackest Night tie-in issues). It takes a very special writer to take something like that and seamlessly combine the event with their ongoing story and Marz pulls that off beautifully in this issue, hooking you right from the beginning with a fight readers probably never thought they’d see. Rhino vs. Silver Surfer? Okay, I’ll bite.

As it turns out, the issue itself is a bit of a bait and switch. They get you in the door with the implied promise of a knock down drag out battle between two pretty tough though not nearly evenly matched opponents and turns it into a story about animal safety. But in a cool way. If you’re not familiar with Infinity Gauntlet, and even my memory’s a little rusty on the subject, there’s a part where Thanos kills half the universe for his lady Death. We’re on Earth after that as the heroes plan their attack. Not wanting to stand around and do nothing, the Surfer starts wandering around what looks like Central Park and comes across a tiger wandering around. After a little investigating, he finds that Rhino has been freeing the animals at the zoo so that they could spend the short time the universe still had free. It’s a pretty cool beat that shows some actual character for the bruiser. I’m not familiar with him outside of the 90s Spidey cartoon and some video games, but I got a pretty good feel for him in this appearance.

As you might expect, Rhino’s temper gets the best of him and he starts the fight with Silver Surfer. Like a drunk musclehead trying to fight a zen martial arts master, Silver handles him with kid gloves and the two finally stop after something happens to one of the freed animals. Realizing it might be better for the animals to get put back in their cages–for their own safety–the two work together and then part on pretty good terms. I really appreciate what Marz did by zooming in really far on some interesting character moments while this big giant threat to the entire universe was going on. You even get the fight promised on the cover, but that’s not what the comic is actually ABOUT. Actually, I’m not really sure what it’s about. Is there a message here about thinking things through and not being a hot head like Rhino? Is it that some people need imprisonment to keep them safe? I don’t really know, but I like that the comic made me think. I’ve also got to give credit to Ron Lim who has a great knack for drawing powerful looking and dynamic figures. Sure, the backgrounds could have been more detailed (there’s a lot of white in this book), but I like the look of the book.

So, if you’re digging through quarter boxes at your next comic con or have this issue deep in your collection somewhere, I recommend getting it and having some fun. Of the pile, this is the only issue of Silver Surfer I’ll be keeping, though I would be interested in reading more of Marz’s run on the book. Maybe they’ll get around to doing trades of that stuff soon.

Books Of Oa: Ion Vol. 1 & 2

ION THE TORCHBEARER (DC)
Written by Ron Marz, drawn by Greg Tocchini & Tom Grindberg
Collects Ion #1-6
After Rann-Thanagar War, Green Lantern Corps Recharge and Infinite Crisis, Kyle Rayner became even more powerful thanks to regaining some of the power he bestowed to the now-dead Jade (who gave it back when she died in space). Going by Ion once again, Kyle was left to decide what to do with himself and figure out his place in the universe. Launching a month after the line-wide One Year Later jump instituted in IC, the book opens with what looks like Kyle attacking some fellow Green Lanterns and then hanging out at an artists’ retreat on Earth. I remember being really confused by this story at first because, as was clearly intended, you’re not supposed to know whether Kyle’s really losing it Hal-style or if it’s someone else masquerading as him. For whatever reason, I didn’t even think of the latter and the former didn’t make a lot of sense, so I was definitely in the dark. Well after Kyle spends some more time with Mogo in a therapy session where he talks to many of his dead girlfriends (similar to what we saw in Recharge) he teams up with Hal to stop his mad doppelganger who turns out to be none other than insane foe Nero, a man who was messed with by the Weaponers of Qward and given a ring much like Sinestro’s during Judd Winick’s run on the book.

Like many of the other OYL books, we’re not really given a lot of information about what Kyle did during the missing year, but we do find some interesting bits out here and there. First off, the Guardians won’t allow anyone to help the seemingly mad Kyle, nor will they explain what’s happening to him which of course raises some eyebrows. As it turns out, Kyle now has direct access to the GL power battery as well as the Starheart which was the Guardians’ collection of magic and also fuels Alan Scott’s powers, so now he’s doubly powerful. The Guardians seem to think that Hal and Kyle are very similar in that they will both be the savior and bane of them, which is an interesting assessment. Kyle is also told that with the Ion power he can literally restart the GLC again on his own if it gets decimated like it did in the past.

Overall, I think this is a pretty important installment in the overall GLC mythos. It’s good to see Ron Marz writing the character he invented and brought to prominence while also throwing in some of Kyle’s villains that long-time fans remember like Nero. There’s even more in the next volume. We also get a solid idea of what Kyle’s role is to some extent when the Guardians tell him that he will be their agent. It’s also nice to see Hal and Kyle getting along so well and Kyle’s optimistic viewpoint is a refreshing one in comics. Much like me as a reader, he just wants to see what will be happening next. My only real beef with these issues is that the art isn’t so great. I’m not really familiar with Tocchini, but his art seems really inconsistent with some really great looking pages mixed in with some really sloppy looking ones. If you can get past that though, I’d recommend giving his book a read.

ION THE DYING FLAME (DC)
Written by Ron Marz, drawn by Greg Tocchini, Paco Diaz, Yvel Guichet & Fernando Pasarin
Collects Ion #7-12
I can’t, however, recommend the second volume of Ion, though, unless you’re a huge fan of Kyle Rayner like I am. And even then, this volume reeks of editorial interference, plans being changed mid-run and elements getting shoehorned in. Things start off interesting enough with the return of another Kyle villain, this time Effigy who was changed by the Controllers, but, much like Nero, has no idea why he’s attacking Kyle. There’s a mystery as to who has been messing with Kyle’ rogues but we don’t get an answer in this collection as to who’s doing what The early issues also bring Kyle’s old landlord and confidant Radu into the story which is nice to see. From there, Kyle heads to an alien world to help out in the wake of Nero’s destruction. The idea that Kyle needs to help fix things that someone else did dressed as him seems a little weird to me, but I guess it works. This story doesn’t really do much of anything and could have been tossed out. From there we find out Kyle’s mom is dying and no one knows what’s wrong with her. The Guardians call him away, but instead of immediately heeding their call he winds up running into The Atom and Flash from the Tangent universe. If you’re not familiar with Tangent, it was a series of one-shots DC published in an alternate universe in which the Cuban Missile Crisis actually happened with heroes and villains based in name only on existing DC characters. For some reason, DC decided it would be a good idea to bring them back into the consciousness at this time. As they don’t actually serve any purpose aside from sending Kyle into the Bleed where he meets Captain Atom dressed as Monarch none of which has any bearing on this series and only hints at Countdown which was a continuity mess that wound up ruining aspects of Sinestro Corps War and comics in general.

After all that useless nonsense, Kyle winds up teaming up with no longer dead girlfriend Donna Troy against yet another Kyle villain, this time Grayven, Darkseid’s bastard son. It’s a fun fight, but gets cut short when Kyle has to return to his dying mom who’s being looked at my the GLC’s resident doctor Soranik Natu. Unfortunately, there’s nothing that can be done and Kyle’s mom passes away. There’s a really creepy moment where Kyle uses the Ion power to actually bring her back to life, but soon realizes the error of his ways and undoes that. That whole scene is handled really well, though it smacks a little of that Buffy episode where they wisher their mom back from the dead.

I’d say that if you find yourself in possession of this book, just ignore everything with a Monitor, Tangent character or anything that has to do with Countdown and mostly stick to the first and last two issues and then anything with other GLs or the Guardians. Everything else feels like filler. I probably should have read the second volume in more of a chronological order with the rest of the GL books I’m reading, but after really enjoying the first one, I wanted to find answers in the second. Unfortunately there just aren’t any. A few of the questions are answered in the Sinestro Corps War story, but as a story in and of itself, Ion winds up not really working, which is too bad. I’d like to see Marz get another chance to write Kyle and this time just let him run with the character and do his thing.